tv Open Phones With Jeremy Scahill CSPAN December 7, 2013 5:30pm-6:06pm EST
career she started and all the people all over the state who got their start from luis shattuck. the way she did it was by being nice to people. it is a model that politics is about us, the people and we can be nice to each other, we can be civil and we can be strong. she was not really a moderate. she was positioned toward the middle but she was a fierce moderate if you want to think of that. she was very strong and bright to listen to both sides. it is right to be civil and right to care about what the other people have to say and that's a model that we desperately need today and that's another reason i wanted to write this book read. .. a couple more
hours to go this afternoon, and now joining us here on our set in miami is jeremy scahill. here he is, his most recent book, "dirty wars: the world is a battlefield. " mr. scahill, earlier you were on a panel with dan balz and george packer, and one of the questioners asked you what do you see as the difference between how the bush administration and the obama administration approach the war on terror. >> right. , i mean, i think first of all it's great to be with you here on c-span and booktv. the bush with administration, i don't want to understate how atrocious i think that period was in american foreign policy. it really was like murder incorporated. the destruction of iraq, the creation of the cia black sites, the idea that the geneva
convention was -- [inaudible] the abu ghraib torture, using guantanamo, you could go on and on in characterizing it. so i don't want to get into a thing about is obama worse than bush. i covered those wars, i know what happened. under president obama i think what we have is someone who has sort of rebranded some of the more egregious aspects of the bush-cheney counterterror apparatus and i think has convinced himself that they're waging a smarter war. so they're relying on the drones much more than the bush administration did, using small team of coovert operators to conduct either kill or capture, and because guantanamo remains open despite the president's pledge to close it during his anytime office, i think that the obama administration doesn't want to capture too many people. so the kill-capture program has generally become a kill program. and so at the end of the day, i think the enduring legacy for president obama on the issues i cover is that he made possible a continuation of the bush-cheney
counterterrorism apparatus. i imagine dick cheney fly fishing on his boat somewhere in wyoming, you know, sort of having a good chuckle and saying, you know, thank god obama was president because the next time we're in power, we're going to be able to continue doing this stuff. >> host: jeremy scahill, how large is the drone program in the u.s. right now? >> guest: well, we have very little information about it. let's remember that for almost the entire first term that president obama was in office, he never publicly mentioned the drones except on a google plus hangout in response to a question that a young person had asked him. no u.s. officials would ever publicly own that the u.s. even had a drone program. an american citizen was killed in a drone strike, this guy anwar al-awlaki who was from the united states and went to yemen and was making these youtube videos, they killed him in 2011. 600 days later president obama gives a speech where he owns the fact that the u.s. is doing this. there are secret bases in saudi arabia, oman, in east africa. my understanding is there also is a facility inside of yemen
and, of course, in afghanistan drones are being flown across the border into pakistan. for some time there was also a drone base in pakistan that blackwater, the mercenary company, worked on as well and, of course, i wrote a book about that. it's a pretty large program. and to me, one of the things that's fascinating and devastatingly awful about the whole thing is that you can have guys who are trained drone pilots, you know, it's not true that they're unmanned. they very much are manned, but they're manned remotely. you can have a drone pilot sitting in a trailer on a military base in the southwest of the united states, and he is ening in a -- engage anything a bombing in pakistan or yemen, and he gets in his suv at the end of the day, and he passes a sign saying buckle up, this is the most dangerous part of your day. meaning that you're in a war zone theoretically, and you're dropping actual bombs on people, but you have a greater chance of being hit by another vehicle or having a traffic accident than you do in being killed in a war that you're engaged in.
>> host: jeremy scahill is our guest, if you were watching booktv a little bit earlier, you saw him on the panel with dan balz and george packer. 202 is the area code, 585-3890 in the east and central time zones, 585-3891 for those of you in the mountain, pacific and beyond time zones. you can also send a tweet, @booktv is our twitter handle. what is jsoc? >> the joint special operations command is the most elite team of commandos, soldiers, navy seals that has ever been created in the u.s. national security apparatus. it actually started in 1980s after the failed hostage mission in iran. there's a whole other story that wasn't dealt with in "argo," and that is the that the u.s. military was authorized to go in and rescue the american hostages who had been taken when our embassy was seized in 1979. that operation was a disaster, and the navy was fighting with the army, the army was fighting
with the air force, a helicopter crashed because of a sandstorm. and after that the pentagon and officials in the white house began discussing the creation of a sort of full-spectrum all-star team. and they originally acquired two what are called special missionsen units that could conduct -- missions that could conduct special operations. one was navy seal team six. they wanted the soviets to believe they had a greater capacity than they did, and the other was the army's delta force. and for much of its existence it operated in the shadows in small-scale investigations, they were involved with the killing of pablo escobar, the colombian drug war. after 9/11 cheney and rumsfeld really came up with this idea. they thought that the cia was a liberal think tank which is hilarious to anyone who knows the history of the cia. but they really did believe that the cia had been melted down to, basically, a debased society
under the clinton administration. and they felt that the military's covert unit would be the best weapon that the u.s. could use in a discreet global secret war. and so they injected jsoc with steroids. and general stanley mcchrystal ran jsoc for much of the bush era, and they began operating what was effectively a global hunting organization. and they weren't hunting deer, they were hunting people. and they did their own interrogation. they have their own secret prisons. it was a whole parallel apparatus to what the cia had traditionally had sovereign realm other. >> host: how did you get involved in this line of work? >> guest: purely by accident. i went to university thinking i wanted to be a middle schoolteacher. and i discovered very soon after i got to the university what it meant to be on academic probation. i was a terrible student. so if i'm a horrible student, i don't know how i'm going to teach the youth of america to do anything. [laughter] it's not that i was screwing around and out partying, i just wasn't very good at school. and, you know, i would say that i was enrolled at the
university, not that i was attending the university. and after three years -- this was in wisconsin -- and after three years i decided that i wanted to do something in the real world, and i moved to this homeless shelter in washington, d.c., the community for creative nonviolence which was just two blocks from the capitol at the time. you know, hundreds of people. and i started, i was mopping floors and cleaning toilets and taking a lot of veterans, actually, to doctors' appointments. at that time for me the idea that a veteran was living in a homeless shelter was stunning to me, and i would talk to all of these old guys. and i started listening to a lot of talk radio. and i had never heard of this woman called amy goodman, and i heard her one day on the radio, and she's taking on newt gingrich, the speaker or of the house, and taking on rebels this the congo and talking about social justice struggles in the united states, on immigration issues, and i said i want to be a part of that. some of the young folks who might be familiar with the terms i'm about to use, but i used a pen and what was called paper,
and i wrote her something we used to call a letter and put it inside of what's called an envelope, and i licked this thing called a stamp -- anyway,. [laughter] i want to do anything for you if i can. if you have a dog, i'll walk your dog or feed your camp. and then i started going to events. she never responded. i was stalk her, basically, not in a creepy way, and i think she had to decide whether to get a restraining order or let me volunteer. so she let me volunteer, and i learned journalism as a trade. real reporters would ask me to help them edit their pieces, so i learned by p watching journalists who i really admired engage in the trade. and once i started going international, going places like iraq, a fire just caught inside of me, and i wanted to tell the stories of people who had no voice. >> host: jeremy scahill is the author of "black water, the rise of the world's most powerful mercenary army." he serves as national security correspondent for the nation magazine. his most recent book, "dirty wars: the world is a
battlefield." the first call for him comes from carl in ft. lauderdale. hi, carl, you on book -- you're on booktv on c-span2. jeremy scahill is our guest. >> caller: yes, el low. i've followed jeremy's career for quite a while. i think his work is exemplary on blackwater and especially in the new book. earlier on the panel you had suggested that possibly we're in the reason that we're in the state we are now with obama was basically naive. he had no military experience, no foreign policy experience. if you could speak to him in light of what snowden has revealed, what could be done? because to my light, he's about the best kind of we're going to get. another bush or cheney would be a disaster. so here's a guy, a constitutional lawyer, a liberal, a good man. what could he do now to really make transparent and stop some of these abuses as you see them? >> host: thank you, carl. >> guest: appreciate the question. first of all, i don't think -- and if i gave that impression, i didn't mean to -- i don't think
that president obama was knew brief. i think he's an incredibly brilliant figure. in fact, when he was in the senate, i worked with his office at times journalistically on the blackwater issue, you know, because he has a young -- he as a young u.s. senator actually was pretty serious about that issue. so i don't think it's about naivete, i think if he came into office without having military experience, without having serious foreign policy credentials and was to say to the entire u.s. national security apparatus, actually, i disagree with everything and i'm going to do it this way, i think he would have had a very tough time being the commander or in chief. ..
deeper about the contradictions and of our society than donald rumsfeld former defense secretary -- secretary better tombouctou were right now.rs whistle-blowers have been indicted under the espionage act and former cia officials imprisoned for blowing the whistle on water boarding.d the nuances of portage buto the most devastating part is he has used the saysolic credibility that a lot of liberals wouldno oppose. >> host: we had reaction ask calls after your panel. why you continual bash the president? why do you bash president obama? >> i don't see it as bashing
president obama at all. there is a reason why journalism is the only sited job in the united states constitution. and that is because we have three branches of government. and if those three branches of power collude together against the interest of the people the press is the forth estate. and journalist have a role to take against those in authority. what i would say to the caller is go back and look at my record in reporting on clinton, bush j obama. i have been consistent towards those in power and that is a core tenant of journalism. it doesn't how president obama treats his daughter. i care about how he treats the broader children in america by
his policies. >> robert, you are on booktv. >> hi, jeremy, thanks for taking the call. first off, thank you for your courage is being the last shining light of journal'tshinig light of journa shining light of journal'ism. and it was cool to hear you write the letter and i will pester you to get an internship in the new outlet you are starting. i watched the film dirty war and there are many aspects of this story that strike me to believe the united states foreign policy and what they are doing over there, is creating more
terrorism than it is ridding the world of. my question to you as someone who knows about this, and the true consequences of these policies, is do you think it would be beneficial to leave that part of the world alone? bring the military back. defend america. and stop invading countries. or do you think some presence over there is necessary? >> thank you, robert. >> i do think that we should totally pull out militarily from this nations. i think there is a responsibility way to do that. you cannot move tens of thousands of troops and equipment overnight so there has to be a safe way of withdrawing. and i don't know if you remember this but when governor george ryan was governor of georgia.
he was a republican and cochair of bush's campaign. it wasn't that ryan was opposed to the death penalty. it was that there was proof, a lot generated by students, that innocent people were being put to death and dna evidence was working for them after hey were killed. i think we have hit that point with the drone strikes, targeted killing and night raids and the use of secret prison. we need to look at how far we have gone over the cliff since 9-11. >> and debby is calling from just across the mbay in miami
beach. your on live with jeremy scahill. >> debby, we will have to put you on hold. remind her to turn down the volume and we will move on to the next call. this is richard in massachusetts. >> hi, i am like you and i need my daily dose of amy's show and i brought your book in cambridge when she interviewed you. my question is three days after 9-11, the congress minus congressman lee, was the only authorization of the use of military force was passed. and bush and obama have used the authorization to do anything they want in the middle east with drones or whatever. my question is do you think that
the neo conservatives and liberals will resend that law? can you believe we will have troops in afghanistan until 2024. >> there is a lot there. i think the original authorization was a disaster piece passed because of fear. i tell young people to be watch barbara's speech. imagine being the only decenter in congress on that vote days after the 9-11 attacks took place. there is discussion about repealing or modifying the authorization for the use of military force, but at the end of the day, under the article two of the constitution, the american has the right to
control foreign policy. democrats and republicans alike have violated the war power act and not sought congressional approval to go to many wars. even if we repealed the amf, there is the overlying issue that there is an incredible executive power grab that was the life work of chaney and obama pushed it further along. >> jeremy, in reading "dirty wars" where are we surprised about the troop ss? >> a lot of the book focus on africa and near the kenya boarder and it is called camp simba. and there is where they con fronted the pirates that is now made into a movie.
but they regularly do raids there. and they have a military base in another area where drones are flown. there are troops on the ground in syria, libya, and a lot of smoke about ben gaza and a lot is conspiracy on the whitehouse. but there is a lot we don't know about. there were operations that are not documented and my sense is the attack had nothing to do with the video, but everything to do with the dirty wars. in the conflict in mali there were people on the ground. in central america there are united states military and cia engaged in military style
tickets. on any given day, j-shock or others are deployed in 120 countries. some cases are training but some are hunting them down. the united states is targeting islamic rebels in the fill feenz. -- philippines -- >> i have a quick question for you: have see seen the rise of amy and which version of journalism do you consider the most legit form?
alex jones is more basic. what is your answer to that? >> i got the question. i want to be careful in choosing my words. i think alex jones is a lunatil. he has forwarded the most outrageous conspiricacy theorie. he is pushing outright law and that subverts real journalism by giving the impression everyone is running around with a tin foil hat on. he is not in the same category as amy goodwin. >> greg from iowa. >> let me put this on mute here.
i was wondering is the common tater here earlier said he was going to ask you the question about how come you always slam president obama. and you mentioned that for you it was because of some of his policie policies. oh, crum. the person in the whitehouse -- >> greg, what is your point? >> my point was -- oh -- >> greg, did you have a question for jeremy scahill? >> he did a good job of
explaining. >> greg, very much we appreciate your calling but we will move on to lorenzo in berkeley, california. >> thank you for taking my call. i am calling from barbara lee's congressional district and i was lucky enough to see you speak in may and love the book. my question is for you is given things like rand paul and the drone issues and the hearings and then people visiting for the congress people. do you think events are a shift in the drone strikes or are they drops in the buckets.
>> i felt embarrassed as an american when he had the pakistan and yemen family members of drone strike victims and only a handful of congressmen showed up. he is an incredible man and is on a panel with academics and was asked almost no questions. i don't think it represents a shift. i think congressman grace credit and congressman myers and lee has been-spoken on this. you raise rand paul and this is fascinating thing that has happened. rand paul did something i think congressional democrats should have done and that is to shutdown the congress and say
let's take a stock of how far we have gone. we have a president who won the noble prize and saying he has the right to assassinate a united states citizen. rand paul is against everything i am in favor in. but on these he is right. but when people like sarah palin starts tweeting against drones that is political. she is riding around in the helicopter shooting at animals and she would love drones if she were in charge. >> chen from richmond, virginia. go ahead with your question. >> thank you. this is kind of along the same lines as the last caller. but i want to get your thought
about what happens with syria and how, you know, all signs pointed to a strike. and it just changed and if you thing it was political against obama or congressman like grayson. what were the difference forces at play that affected us not going in? and if you could talk about what happened this morning in iran as well. >> so, first of all, on the syria issue, the united states is already intervening in syria. the cia is supporting groups with weapons and strategic satellite imagery to enable them to engage with forces. the russians are involved. the iranians are involved.
the united states is engaged already. but your question is interesting. i think what happened was president obama made this statement that for him a red line was the use of chemical weapons. and when it came out they used chemical weapons. obama is being asked by the press and al llies what are you going to do? and they were looking at a strike with maybe drones and tomahawks that would send a m s message and didn't intend for an exte extended air fair. and the obama was caught off guard on the opposition. and people on the left are fed
wind up with the wars. the whitehouse miscalculated the opposition >> what is the companion to this? >> i was writing the book while the film was being being shot. so the nfilm is about an investigation that beacame a book. it was challenge and beneficial to do it this way. en yave . .or . . notebook. but when you stick a camera in someone's face they act different than if you were writing shorthand. it was an interesting road. i don't know if we would do anything like that again. i felt like my whole live was
being filmed for three years. but the director of the film is a combat camera man himself. >> you are first book on black water. have you read eric prince's book? >> you said eric was in the c-span and coming out and a >> you told me when we were talking on the show you said eric was on the c-span bus. he would beat me in an arm wrestling match. no doubt, he was a navy s.e.a.l.. eric prince this book was supposed to come out a year or so ago. there was a big legal battle going on between eric prince and one of the people that helped writing the book and they are suing each other. one of the things that person and helped with the book was he wrote it in part to get revenge on me which i sound for -- found sort of funny. at the end of the day there's a lot of propaganda a lot of propaganda the people that these companies will put out their memoirs.
i think the fact that no one from blackwater was ever effectively held accountable for the killing of these iraqis in bag dad or any of the other killing that was done or their involvement in the u.s. assassination program was never fully exposed as a real injustice. eric prince is engaged in something we call great mailing. it's not like mailing but he's been doing this for sometime. this was a guy who did work or the cia and joint special operationoperation s and had top security clearances. blackwater men were at the center of some of the most significant events of the past 12 years when forward-operating base chapman was blown up in december 2009 in senior cia people were killed there there were two blackwater among the dead and very few people know that. that gives you a sense of how close they were in proximity to a meeting for someone who is purportedly aware of the location of ayman al-zawahiri.
eric france knows where a lot of the bodies are buried. he knows his closets contain skeletons that would threaten the livelihood of a lot of powerful people in this country and part of the reason for writing this book is to say you come at me, i come at you and i think eric prince has been very effective and keep in government away from him. speak to bestsellers george polk award, documentary and you do some tv shows. how is your life changed since you were mopping floors at the center for creative progress? be one of the first interviewinterview s i did on tv was here on c-span on booktv when the book came out. i remember i was terrified. i had never really done anything like that before and when i was, when i wrote the book i won on "the daily show" with jon stewart and it was kind of an awkward interview. my book went flying off the table and i was like i don't ever want to do this. i feel every time i'm invited to go on one of the bigger tv shows i feel like i'm speaking for a
lot of people whose voices are seldom heard in the broader corporate media and they feel a great responsibility and i try to raise the stories of real people that i have met carried i assume it's the last time they will let me on tv so i try to talk really fast and get in as much as i can. >> jeremy scahill please come back to booktv. this is his most recent book, 30 wars, the world as a battlefield we appreciate your time. >> thank you very much. >> in this encore booknotes from 2001, historian joseph persico discusses his book "roosevelt's secret war". the book examines what mr. persico feels is an overlooked aspect of franklin roosevelt's world war ii leadership his involvement in intelligence and espionage operations. he talks about the level information president roosevelt had about the coming fate of the
air -- and the attack on pearl harbor. this is about an hour. c-span: joseph e. persico, author of "roosevelt's secret war: fdr and world war ii espionage," when did you get the idea for this book? >> guest: brian, i was a kid growing up during the roosevelt era. he's always been a hero of mine i wondered how i would be able someday to write a book about franklin roosevelt. i couldn't imagine there was anything that hadn't been said. i pulled up on the internet the catalog of the library of congress and i went through it line by line and there were something like 600 books on franklin d. roosevelt. and i thought, 'it's a--it's all said. but i've written a great deal about intelligence and maybe i could combine the two,' and there was nothing in this list of 600 books in the catalog about fdr and intelligence. my--my reaction was, 'joe, you are either brilliant and you've thought of something that nobody
else could think of or you're a fool and you're wasting your time because there's no story.' c-span: so in the end, what--when did you start to see a--a story that had never been told? >> guest: well, i started going down, brian, to hyde park, to the roosevelt archives. and it--i started virtually from ground zero. but as i started plowing through the papers of george marshall, the papers of bill donovan and fdr's papers, i realized there were a lot of unst--untold stories and i was very encouraged to proceed. c-span: let's pick one of those names, bill donovan. who was he? >> guest: bill donovan was an authentic hero of world war i, a congressional medal of honor winner, subsequently a vastly successful wall street lawyer. now he becomes, in effect, the first head of a central intelligence agency in the united states.